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Barnaby Joyce backs ‘utterly dopey’ Israel Folau

AUSTRALIANS  should have the right to express "completely and utterly dopey" opinions under new religious freedom laws, Barnaby Joyce says. 

The federal Nationals MP used rugby star Israel Folau's sacking as an example, saying his religious views should only be an issue if his ability to ­perform at work was affected.

"I think a lot of what Israel Folau said is just completely and utterly dopey. But it's his right to be dopey," Mr Joyce told ABC Radio.

Speaking out... Barnaby Joyce. Picture: Pter Lorimer
Speaking out... Barnaby Joyce. Picture: Pter Lorimer


He said people had a tendency to temper religious statements at work and socially.

"We've got people who are a pain in the arse and they're in every office," he said.

"But we can't just go around sacking them because they're annoying."

Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia after posting views on social media that were deemed in breach of his contract.

He paraphrased Bible passages suggesting "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.

Folau is arguing he was unfairly dismissed on religious grounds and is seeking $10 million in damages from RA. He also wants his contract reinstated.

Israel Folau leaves the Kenthurst Uniting Church. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone
Israel Folau leaves the Kenthurst Uniting Church. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone

On the ABC's Q&A program last night, Labor Senator Penny Wong, a practising Christian said she and Folau see their religion very differently.

"He is entitled to his beliefs," she said.

"I disagree. I think we ought remember he doesn't speak for all Christians.

Wong was responding to a question about whether the response to Folau's comments would be different if he were a Muslim rather than a Christian.

"In relation to Mr Folau, can I say - first on an emotional level - I wish that we could have more expressions of love and forgiveness rather than condemnation when it came to belief.

"I wish public figures, politicians, sporting stars, may consider … where their words land with vulnerable Australians."

Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong on Q&A last night. Picture: ABC
Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong on Q&A last night. Picture: ABC

"In terms of the broader issue, we are an accepting, tolerant nation … Whatever happens in this current debate around religious freedom, I think we mustn't lose sight of those key characteristics of Australian identity.

"We don't want to become less accepting, less tolerant. We don't want to abrogate our agreed view that people are entitled to equality before the law, that we believe that people are equal, regardless of gender, race, faith, sexuality, disability, etc.

"We should hold to those objectives, that we're not seeking to diminish that. I'm open to a discussion about how we deal with religious protections.

"But I would make this point: There is a distinction between a right to belief and the assertion that that belief should lead to you being treated differently before the law."


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